I’ve been in Dublin for over a month now (the only way I’ve kept track is that I’ve used up my 30-day bus pass), and I figured I’d give you all in the States an update on my adventures in Ireland.
First off, “How’s the crack?”
No, I’m not asking about your rear, or the quality of the cocaine. It’s craic, meaning “fun” or “good times.” So when they ask, “How’s the craic?” they just mean “What’s up?” Little differences in slang like that can be a bit confusing for Americans when they first come to Ireland. You pick them up pretty quickly, but initially the new slang combined with a different accent (and the propensity towards mumbling that some Irish folk exhibit) can make your head spin. “Touch wood” means “knock on wood,” “langered” means drunk, and “takin’ the piss” out of something means to poke fun at or mock something (for example, my roommate said that “South Park” takes the piss out of everything).
Now that our slang lesson is over, it’s time for a drink! Finding the good pubs is key to enjoying your stay in Dublin. The city has more pubs than churches (a refreshing change from my hometown of Porterville, where there are more churches than bars), and many are rich in history, beautifully appointed and have killer prices on pints; you just have to know how to find them. The price for pints in Dublin can range from over 5 euros to as low as 3.50 euros, with some places occasionally selling them for as low as 1 euro on promotional nights. Multiply a euro by about one and a half and you get the U.S. dollar price — and a pint for $1.50 is a steal.
Starting at Trinity College on the South Side of the Liffey River, you have The Pav, the on-campus student pub; I can already sense the jealousy among the Gauchos reading this. The inside has a distinguished, academic ambience and the pints are a reasonable 4 euros. Heading out from Trinity to Grafton Street, make a left and continue up into Grafton Street proper. Hang a left on Duke Street and you’ll find The Duke, which is the first stop on the Trinity Historical Society’s pub crawl. Famous writers (alcoholics) such as Joyce, Behan, O’Nolan and Kavanagh would come here to down some liquid inspiration and wrangle with their manuscripts. The interior is typical of many Irish pubs, with wood floors and ceilings, subdued yellowish lighting and bar counters upstairs and downstairs. The prices are the highest of the tour, at 5 euros a pint, but it’s worth it for the history of it. Just get one pint, sit and chat a while, then be one your way.
Next stop on our crawl is the Ginger Man on Fenian Street behind the Davenport Hotel. If you exit Trinity from the back gate, head right and then left, then you’ll find it. Again, this pub is rich with history, and its past clientele include Oscar Wilde, Yeats, Behan, and George Bernard Shaw. The pub is small with low ceilings and dim lighting. Its selection of beers is surprising for a pub its size, including the usuals –Guinness, Guinness’ rival stout Beamish — but also two beers exclusive to the Ginger Man, Writer’s Block and Writer’s Red, both named for the pub’s history as a meeting place for famous writers. If you’re in need of a bite, they also serve the standard pub fare: fish and chips, chicken fingers and the like. It’s cheap, tasty and absolutely horrible for you, but who cares? Given its distance from the main drag of O’Connell Street, its proximity to Trinity College, and its low pint prices (3.50 euros), the place is usually packed with locals. If you’re lucky, you might even see a politician, as I did on my last visit. I forget his name, but my friend Ciskey told me that he had once run for president, and I could tell by his manner — the broad gestures, the way he went about the room grinning and shaking hands and pretending to be interested in the common folk — that he was indeed an experienced politician. It’s a lovely little pub.
There are dozens of other pubs, clubs and bars to visit in Dublin, but now at least you know some of the best kept secrets known to the locals. Until next time, sláinte!